Breaking the sugar addiction was an important step in our family’s healing. Our family of four successfully broke our sugar addiction about 6 years ago. The children were ages 1 and 4 at the time. Easy? No. Worth it? Yes.
Learning how to break a sugar addiction got our immune systems to step up to Lyme disease, improved our moods, and helped heal our leaky guts. The ‘accidental’ benefits have been amazing too – no more cavities, kids who can behave, concentrate and excel in school, acne gone, PMS gone, more energy and a healthy glow in our skin. Studies are showing that low sugar diets are protective against a wide variety of diseases – from diabetes to heart disease .
A recent study claims that sugar is eight times more addictive than cocaine [2, 10]. How do we mortals have a chance at breaking the sugar addiction?
This article summarizes all the things that helped us break our sugar addiction. The tips are based on many months of experience and experiments. This article is everything we wish we had known when we started!
Tip #1: Clean House
Tip #1: Clean House
Let’s be honest – cravings are strong. Really strong. If sugar is kept in the house, cravings will lead the hands to the sugars and the sugars to the mouth. Clean out all sugars from the home. Read the labels – some seemingly healthy foods may have sugars in the ingredients!
Alcohol metabolizes into sugar. If you drink regularly and think you might have trouble resisting, alcohol may need to go too.
Tip #2: Cut Out Sugar Substitutes
Get rid of sugar substitutes. Period. This includes honey, agave, coconut sugars, stevia, truvia, sucralose, xylitol, saccharin, aspartame, and any other sugar substitute. Even sugar substitutes can feed cravings. It’s hard to beat a sugar addiction without eliminating cravings.
Tip #3: Stop Eating Fruit
Fruit today has 10x more sugar and 10x fewer nutrients than the fruit my grandmother ate [3,4,5]. Fruit today was like candy for my grandmother. I found that breaking the sugar addiction was very difficult while still eating fruit. Cravings wouldn’t go away until fruit was eliminated.
We had to cut out all fruit, including low-sugar fruits. Months later, once the sugar addiction was really gone, we could add back some fruit in moderation. Moderation for us means about 1 piece of fruit per week. However, we still never eat fruit by itself or as a snack. It’s always eaten after a fat & protein rich meal, as a dessert.
Tip #4: Break Sugar-Associated Habits
Used to sugar in the mid-afternoon slump? Breaking the habit can be harder than stopping the craving! Christine Carter has some great articles about the science of habit breaking .
Personally, I pre-emptively came up with new routines at the mid-afternoon slump. One great one was to take a mid-afternoon walk. Instead of sitting at the desk where the cravings occurred, I changed my afternoon habit and was now outside walking. If I was still craving something after the walk, I would grab a hot tea (I was working in a very cold office building at the time).
Brainstorm new habits in advance, before trying to break the sugar addiction. Pro-actively change habits that are associated with sugar.
Tip #5: Break Emotional Sugar Associations: Rewards, Comfort Foods, Holidays & Social Pressures
I was raised with sugar as a reward and comfort food. I also associated sugar with holidays. Breaking emotional and cultural associations is tough stuff. It requires lifestyle changes. New rewards, new comforts, and new holiday habits. Here are some specific ideas:
- Rewards – Ask yourself this question: What really brings you pleasure? Choose one of these for a new reward. Personally, I never seem to have enough time to read, get a haircut, have a massage, go for a walk, take a bike ride, or get away for a night or two.
- Comforts – What comforts you besides food? Warm socks, calling a loved one, hanging out with friends, reading a book, hot tea. Come up with a plan in advance for food-less comforts.
Changing lifestyle habits sometimes causes friends and family to make rude remarks, or be insensitive. Let them go if they must. Spend time with people who are supportive, not those who undermine your efforts. Time to find out who the real friends are!
Tip #6: Craving Strategies – Sit-ups, Push-ups, Walks, Chores
What do you do when cravings strike? Especially the first few days, cravings will be strong and unforgiving.
I found coming up with ‘craving substitutes’ helped. This means for every craving, I would mentally notice and acknowledge the craving. If it didn’t go away and was distracting me from work, then I would do something else. My favorites were:
- 30 sit-ups
- 10 push-ups
- 10 squats
- Walk around the block
- Household chore – like cleaning out 1 drawer for every craving
- Grab a nap
Exercises were the best at eliminating cravings! Replacing sugar with exercise is a win-win!
Sometimes after doing my exercise or chore, I would ‘treat’ myself to a glass of bubbly mineral water or a hot tea. These two items I drink only as treats. Otherwise I drink plain filtered water.
Tip #7: Extra Sleep
Science has shown that lack of sleep can increase cravings [7,8]. Late at night, my body is exhausted and I still have 20 things on my to-do list. I try to power through, and this is when the sugar cravings would start. Sound familiar?
My default rule is to stop eating after 8pm and be in bed by 9:30pm. I need to be this rigid or I end up working and eating most of the night! I don’t think everyone needs to be this strict, but I do think that most of us are not getting enough sleep. Try extra sleep to help break a sugar addiction.
Tip #8: Fast
Fasting? Yup. It’s been my experience that fasting is probably the easiest way to break the sugar addiction. Some doctors are now agreeing with me. Dr. Mercola says “Intermittent Fasting—One of the Best Ways to Eliminate Sugar Cravings .” Dr. Chris Kresser says “Intermittent fasting can really set you free from some habitual patterns around food .”
Personally, I don’t think intermittent fasting is going to work by itself to eliminate sugar cravings. It doesn’t help if during meals one still eats sugar, even if those meals are restricted to a 7-8 hour time slot per day.
Here’s how I use fasting to help break a sugar addiction…and keep it broken:
- Fast for 3 days every 3 months during a gallbladder-liver flush. Note that flushes are recommended by Simon Yu MD, even for healthy people. His recommendations are ‘eat light meals,’ but I have found that the flush is more effective while fasting. This fast resets all my cravings, and any emotional attachments I may have created towards food in the previous 3 months. The 3-day fast kills many birds with one stone: resets cravings, resets meotions to food, flushes bile sludge, flushes dead parasites, plus I feel awesome a few days after a good flush! After the flush, I slowly go back to eating meals without sugar.
- Intermittent fasting the rest of the time. I eat my first meal at lunch around noon, and my dinner with the family around 6pm. During breakfast time, I pack lunch boxes for the day while the rest of the family eats. Our meals are meat and non-sweet vegetables, as described in the best diet for health.
I have been meaning to write an article on fasting, but Mark Sisson beat me to it. He does an excellent job summarizing the research and offering tips: Long Fasts: Worth the Risk?
Tip #9: Eat Plenty of Fats
Most of us metabolize sugar for energy. As we stop eating sugar, the body has to switch to metabolizing more fats and proteins. Eliminating sugar means the diet will have to change. Healthy fat intake will probably need to increase. More details can be found in the diet for optimal health section.
Inspirations, Results, Conclusions
Our relationship with food often is emotional, even spiritual. The sage Ghandi has as one of his 11 vows “Control of the Palate.” Personally I think breaking the sugar addiction is related to control of the mind. This is very difficult in today’s society, where we are surrounded by both sugar and sugar addicts.
Once sugar addiction is eliminated, the palate is reset. Carrots are now sweet. Fruits are way too sweet. One feels full after a meal, moods improve, and productivity skyrockets. Breaking a sugar addiction is really tough, but definitely worth the rewards!
Q: What about Mineral Deficiencies?
A: I’m not a huge fan of the idea that cravings are caused by mineral deficiencies. Especially sugar cravings. What minerals is the body craving in sugar?
I have heard everything from deficiencies in magnesium, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Omega fatty acids can cause various cravings. Maybe, but I’ve had deficiencies in many of these areas and have never found them to be the sources of my cravings. Personally, when I dial in all the tips listed above, cravings go away, mineral deficiencies or not.
I do think monitoring and fixing mineral deficiencies is important. I just don’t think it’s necessary to eliminate sugar cravings. We’ve found Zyto the easiest way to monitor and fix mineral deficiencies.
Q: How long does it take to break the sugar addiction?
A: It depends, but on average I’m guessing 1 week. After the first week without sugar, one is likely feeling pretty good.
 WBUR with James DiNicolantonio, “Is Sugar More Addictive than Cocaine?” January 7, 2015.
 ABC Eyewitness News “Study: Sugar Hidden in Junk Food Eight Times More Addictive Than Cocaine,” Feb, 2015.
 “Dirt Poor: Have Fruit and Vegetables Become Less Nutritious?” Scientific American, April 2011.
 “10 Reasons Why Fructose is Bad,” Paleo Leap Article.
 Dr. Mercola “Surprising Health Hazards Associated with All-Fruit Diet,” February 11, 2013.
 Christine Carter, PhD “How to Break a Habit and Start a New One: The Science of Change”
 Stephanie Castillo “Sleep Deprivation Linked To Junk Food Cravings: Endocannabinoid System May Activate Weight Gain” Medical Daily, Feb 29, 2016.
 Yasmin Anwar, “Sleep deprivation linked to junk food cravings” Berkeley News, August 6, 2013.
 Dr. Chris Kresser, “RHR: Is Intermittent Fasting Good For You?”
 P. Rada, N. Avena, B. Hoebel. “Daily bingeing on sugar repeatedly releases dopamine in the accumbens shell,” Behavioural neuroscience Vol. 134, Issue 3, April 2005, pp. 737-744.
 Dr. Mercola, “How to Eliminate Junk Food Cravings for Good.” May 26, 2014.
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